Saturday, April 15, 2006

I must get a new camera ...

... before going to Panama next month. Our ancient Ricoh has served us well, but is not easily compatible with any of our computers.

Today, I participated in a major insect-sorting project, which included some beautiful African ants supplied to us by a research collaborator. One of them was Oecophylla longinoda, the ant that appears on the cover of Hölldobler and Wilson's The Ants. I would love to have a good photo of my own, but don't. So, watch this space.

Actually, I've had a personal encounter with the other species in this genus, Oecophylla smaragdina, the emerald tree ant of Australia. Oecophylla are formicine ants, which do not sting, but they bite fiercely when provoked. In the summer of 2004, I was leaning entirely too close to an O. smaragdina nest in Townsville when a worker dropped onto my neck and bit me. I instinctively slapped her, felt bad about killing a worker who was merely defending her turf, and then remembered that members of this species are reputed to taste pleasantly lemony. Not wanting to waste my kill, I ate her. Not half bad, although I'm not sure the citrus tang doesn't have as much to do with the psychology of color as anything else.

Many thanks to Myrmecos for his willingness to let me link to his photos. I recommend his site highly to anyone who enjoys good insect photography. I doubt I'll ever have either his talent or his patience, but he remains an inspiration as I resolve to go hunting the perfect camera.



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